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Happy Sunday! A couple of weeks ago Jenny at Reading the End decided to launch a little project called Something on Sunday, a way to celebrate the little things in life and share some love for the things that matter most. She encouraged people to blog every Sunday “about something that kept you on your feet that week”:

… whether that’s a person that inspired you, an action you took that you’re proud of, a book or movie or TV show that nourished your heart, a self-care strategy that worked for you, a goofy event or moment that brought you joy. Whatever it is, every Sunday, I want you to tell me something that matters to you.

So, I’m in. This week my something on Sunday is decidedly bookish, although I am sure that will be the case for most Sundays going forward. But this week… let’s talk about cheap books!

Half Price Books, for those of you unfortunate enough to not have that chain nearby, is a store where you can get… half price books. I take piles of books there to trade in pretty regularly, only to turn around and spend more on new books on the trip. It’s a vicious cycle.

Every year, all of the Half Price Books locations in the Twin Cities team up to host a giant clearance sale in the Grandstand at the Minnesota State Fairgrounds. All books are less than $3. Most are $2. They pile books up on these long tables — sort of organized, but mostly not — and then let you in to just shop. It is amazing — kind of like a library book sale on steroids.

I managed to mostly contain myself this year, only grabbing 10 books (and two of them are short story collections I’ve already read, just didn’t have in my permanent collection). That seems remarkably restrained. Here’s what I grabbed:

  • The Planets by Dava Sobel — Science! Space!
  • Founding Brothers by Joseph Ellis — American history! Hamilton!
  • The Looming Tower by Lawrence Wright — Pultizer Prize winner! Also, Al-Quaeda.
  • Stern Men by Elizabeth Gilbert — Fiction!
  • Almost Famous Women by Megan Mayhew Bergman — Short stories!
  • We Need New Names by NoViolet Bulawayo — Fiction!
  • Unbecoming by Rebecca Scherm — Fiction! Psychological thriller!
  • The Monster of Florence by Douglas Preson and Mario Spezi — True crime! Italy!
  • Girls of Riyadh by Rajaa Alsanea — Fiction! In translation! From Saudi Arabia!
  • The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher by Hilary Mantel — Short stories!

I did not pick up a copy of The Way Forward by Paul Ryan, which someone hilariously piled up in the fiction section. Good job, book nerds.

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Do you love November? Do you love nonfiction? Then consider joining Julie (JulzReads), Sarah (Sarah’s Book Shelves), Katie (Doing Dewey), Lory (Emerald City Book Review) and I for Nonfiction November, a month-long celebration of everything nonfiction.

A Little Looking Back

Before I get into the logistics and prompts, I hope you’ll give me a little space for some reminiscing. Nonfiction November has been around since 2013, when one of my blogging friends and I decided to launch a personal challenge to read exclusively nonfiction during the month of November. We decided to open the challenge up and invite other bloggers to join us, with weekly prompts and link ups to discuss and share our favorite nonfiction books.

The reception was awesome, and the event has come back every year since then with a different group of hosts. For personal reasons, I wasn’t able to be involved last year, but others took up the cause and did a great job. It’s been so gratifying to see a little thing launched with very little thought turn into an annual event that other bloggers look forward to participating in. Ok, end of the sappiness.

Nonfiction November 2017

Nonfiction November will run pretty much as it has every year. On Monday, the week’s host will put up a post with our prompt for the week where you can link up your posts throughout the week. On Friday, the host will gather up responses and share a few as part of a weekly round up. Here are the dates, hosts and topics for this year:

Week 1: (Oct 30 to Nov 3) — Julie @ JulzReads — Your Year in Nonfiction: Take a look back at your year of nonfiction and reflect on the following questions – What was your favorite nonfiction read of the year? What nonfiction book have you recommended the most? What is one topic or type of nonfiction you haven’t read enough of yet? What are you hoping to get out of participating in Nonfiction November?

Week 2: (Nov. 6 to 10) — Sarah @ Sarah’s Book Shelves — Book Pairing: This week, pair up a nonfiction book with a fiction title. It can be a “If you loved this book, read this!” or just two titles that you think would go well together. Maybe it’s a historical novel and you’d like to get the real history by reading a nonfiction version of the story.

Week 3: (Nov. 13 to 17) — Kim @ Sophisticated Dorkiness — Be The Expert/Ask the Expert/Become the Expert: Three ways to join in this week! You can either share three or more books on a single topic that you have read and can recommend (be the expert), you can put the call out for good nonfiction on a specific topic that you have been dying to read (ask the expert), or you can create your own list of books on a topic that you’d like to read (become the expert).

Week 4: (Nov. 20 to 24) — Katie @ Doing Dewey — Nonfiction Favorites: We’ve talked about how you pick nonfiction books in previous years, but this week I’m excited to talk about what makes a book you’ve read one of your favorites. Is the topic pretty much all that matters? Are there particular ways a story can be told or particular writing styles that you love? Do you look for a light, humorous approach or do you prefer a more serious tone? Let us know what qualities make you add a nonfiction book to your list of favorites.

Week 5: (Nov. 27 to Dec. 1) — Lory @ Emerald City Book Review — New to My TBR: It’s been a month full of amazing nonfiction books! Which ones have made it onto your TBR? Be sure to link back to the original blogger who posted about that book!

Nonfiction Book Swap Sign-Ups

This year, we’ll also be bringing back the nonfiction book swap! If you sign up for this swap, you’re committing to sending your swap partner at least one nonfiction book (or more if you want), mailed/ordered in time to arrive by the end of November. You can send books yourself or order them and have them sent directly to your partner. Katie, who is organizing the swap, suggests Book Depository as a great way to send books internationally if you and your partner are in different countries. Sign-ups will be open until November 3 and partner information should go out to everyone by November 5.  You can fill out the form to join the book swap at this link.

Ok. I think that’s it! I hope you’ll consider joining us for Nonfiction November. If you post on social media, please use the hashtag #nonficnov so we can also try to promote and share those posts. Feel free to leave any questions in the comments!

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Whoops, I did not mean to let the blog go silent through the month of September… and yet here we are, the beginning of October without much to show for the last month. My job search is in full swing, including a couple of interviews, but so far nothing has been quite the right fit. On the plus side, I’m feeling ready to get back into a routine and out in the world, so fingers crossed something works out soon.

On the plus side, I got a lot of reading done this month. I finished nine books, including a few chunksters, which felt really satisfying. Here’s what I read in September:

  1. The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin (fantasy)
  2. Wonder Woman: Warbringer by Leigh Bardugo (young adult fiction)
  3. Bored and Brilliant by Manoush Zomorodi (nonfiction)
  4. Cuz: The Life and Times of Michael A. by Danielle Allen (memoir)
  5. A Curious Beginning by Deanna Raybourn, narrated by Angele Masters (fiction, audio book)
  6. What Happened by Hillary Clinton (memoir)
  7. The Obelisk Gate by N.K. Jemisin (fantasy)
  8. Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng (fiction)
  9. The Vegetarian by Han Kang (fiction)

There are two things I am particularly excited about from this month of reading: every book was by a woman, and six of them were by women of color. A couple months ago I noticed that my reading had been very white this year. I attribute that to not paying attention and, for the early part of the year, reading mostly as a tool of comfort and escape. That’s not to say that books by authors of color can’t be means of escape… just that my brain wasn’t in a space where I was making an effort to read diversely, and that really showed. Having a month like this one — with more books by authors of color in the queue for the next few months — is satisfying.

I am really hard-pressed to pick favorites this month because they were all so good. The first two books of N.K. Jemisin’s Broken Earth Trilogy — The Fifth Season and The Obelisk Gate — were complicated and weird, but I think I really liked them. I adored Celeste Ng’s new book, Little Fires Everywhere, but was very confused by Han Kang’s The Vegetarian. I am glad to be talking about it with my book club soon.

What Happened, Hillary Clinton’s memoir, was a tough but good read. The same descriptors probably work for Cuz by Danielle Allen, which I am so glad to have read even if I’ve been struggling to find the words to describe it. Bored and Brilliant by Manoush Zomorodi reminded me about the importance of getting off my devices, but I haven’t gotten myself to implementing her suggestions just yet.

A Look to October

One of my favorite days of the year come in October — the fall edition of Dewey’s 24-Hour Readathon! I already have October 21 blocked off in my calendar, and I’ve been thinking about what books I want to read. As much fun as it is to go to the library to pick out Readathon stacks, this year I think I’d like to focus on my personal TBR shelf (except maybe comics — I’ve got my heart set on Lumberjanes, if my holds come in on time).

Typically, I like to focus on books that are around 250-300 pages with a reasonably-sized font. I find those books are long enough that I can sink into them early in the day, but the pages turn quickly enough that I get the satisfaction of finishing several books in a single day. I don’t have a list yet, but I promise to post it closer to October 21.

Happy September, everyone! What books are you excited to read in October? 

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Around Here | After traveling a bunch in August — to Madison to visit friends, to Denver for a girls’ weekend, and to the cabin for Labor Day — I’m feeling ok about being more of a homebody in September. While I don’t want to miss any opportunities to see new places and visit friends when I don’t have anything tying me down, I also like being at home and spending time with friends and family around here. I may be stir crazy by the end of the month, but for now this is good.

Reading | I’m making reading a priority in September, and so far that goal is off to a good start. I finished two books over Labor Day weekend, The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin and Wonder Woman: Warbringer by Leigh Bardugo, which was incredibly satisfying. I had a nasty cold most of the weekend, so settling down and reading almost constantly was just what I wanted to do. I’m working on reviews of both that I think will go up on Instagram first and then make their way to the blog.

I’m making good progress in two more books, Bored and Brilliant by Manoush Zomorodi and My Absolute Darling by Gabriel Tallent. Bored and Brilliant, about ways to take better control of our devices, is making me want to hide my phone in my sock drawer. My Absolutely Darling, fiction about a teenage girl trying to break free of her abusive, survivalist father, is good, I think, but filled with all of the uncomfortable questions you get when a man writes about the sexual abuse of a teenage girl.

Listening | My sister and I started an audio book on our drive to the cabin, A Curious Beginning by Deanna Raybourn. The main character, Victorian-era lady scientist Veronica Speedwell, is so, so funny, and I am loving the narration by Angele Masters.

Watching | Jenny and I also needed a new tv show to watch while eating dinner, so we finally settled on Graceland, a TNT series that went off the air a few years ago. It’s pretty dumb, but also kind of awesome. We contain multitudes.

Laughing/Crying | Sarah Cooper’s cartoon of nine non-threatening leadership strategies for women made me laugh and it made me really angry.

Practicing | I have been working, somewhat diligently, on improving my brush lettering and pseudo-calligraphy skills. I am… not great at it, but I am slowly getting better.

Making | I am so close to being finished with a crochet Yoda hat for a dear friend’s toddler. If I am not lazy, he’ll have it in time to wear this winter — huzzah!

Loving | Jenny made the coolest rainbow swirl cupcakes last weekend. I cannot get over how awesome they looked. I feel like she missed her true calling. The photo credit also goes to her.

Promoting | I’m really excited that the nonfiction newsletter I write for Book Riot, True Story, has moved to a weekly publishing schedule. The edition that came out today is a list of 10 new books that came out this week, the first big week for new fall releases. I’m excited about the weekly format because I think it’ll give me some more flexibility to play around with more topics and backlist recommendations. If you’d like to sign up, you can do so on this page.

Missing | I wish that I could be back lounging by the pool at our hotel in Denver, soaking up the hot summer sun.

Embracing (Sort Of) | I am doing my very, very best to start embracing the fall. My flannel shirts are out, my warm blankets are laundered, and my apple cider tea is ready for brewing. Fall is lovely, but I have a hard time not thinking ahead to the season I dread, winter. But, life is all about trying to stay in the moment… so that’s what I’m trying to do.

Happy September, everyone! What are you looking forward to for this month? This season? Hit me up with your favorite fall stuff!

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I feel like I say this every month but… can August really be over? Can we really be moving into the fall, with back to school and turning leaves and pumpkin spice everything? It feels like the summer flew by, and I wasn’t even that busy.

One of the (many) strange things about unemployment is the way time seems to fill in a totally different way. It’s something I’ve talked with my therapist about, this feeling of having all the time in the world to do the things I want to do, but not necessarily being able to enjoy it because of the lingering anxiety that sits right in the background. Or the challenges of finding ways to fill this expanse of time so it feels like I’m not just sitting still while the rest of the world moves along beside me. I’ve never had a season of life like this one, and I’m sort of grappling with it in the background all the time. But… that’s enough existential unemployment angst for one post, let’s talk about books!

My reading in August was a little slower than I initially expected it might be, but looking back I can see that coping with the one year anniversary of Nate’s death took up a lot of space and energy that pulled away from other things I might have preferred to be doing. Still, six books isn’t a bad total for the month:

  1. We Love You Charlie Freeman by Kaitlyn Greenidge (fiction)
  2. Camino Island by John Grisham (fiction)
  3. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstren (fiction)
  4. The Blinds by Adam Sternbergh (fiction)
  5. The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde (science fiction?)
  6. Wedding Toasts I’ll Never Give by Ada Calhoun (essays)

Honestly? Nothing really stands out to me as an outstanding read. My favorite was probably Wedding Toasts I’ll Never Give, a slim collection of essays about marriage that sort of surprised me. The Night Circus was a re-read for a book club, and I certainly enjoyed it, but I just wasn’t as wowed by it this time around. I did also like The Blinds, a sort of science fiction-esqe Western where criminals have their minds erased in exchange for a new life in a remote desert community, but it wasn’t life-changing. All in all, August was a fine but not extraordinary month of reading.

A Look to September

September kicks off the big fall publishing season, so a lot of the galleys I picked up at BookExpo in May are approaching their publication day. In order to try and read as many as possible, I’m challenging myself to go on a television diet this month — I can watch shows with other people, but I’m going to try not to just sit around and watch tv on my own. Hopefully that’ll help boost my reading time for the month.

I’m hoping to jump start that month of reading this weekend when I’ll be up at the cabin with my family. Here are some of the books I’m throwing in my suitcase:

The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemison — This one finally came in at the library for me, and I am psyched. It’s the first in a science fiction trilogy that just concluded this fall, so if I like it I can jump into the next two pretty quickly.

Black Flags: The Rise of Isis by Joby Warrick — This book, a look at how the strain of militant Islam we now know as ISIS formed and spread — won the Pulitzer Prize for General Nonfiction in 2016. It was an impulse buy a few weeks ago, but I’ve already been sucked in. The narrative and storytelling are really strong, which I feel like you need for a book on a topic as difficult as this one.

Wonder Woman: Warbringer by Leigh Bardugo — My favorite YA author writing about one of my favorite superheroes as a teenager. Yes, please. This one just came in the mail and I am psyched to read it over the last long holiday weekend of summer.

The Light We Lost by Jill Santopolo — I’m not sure where I found this one, but I am all in for a “devastatingly romantic debut novel about the enduring power of first love” as a vacation read.

I’ll probably bring one more book, likely nonfiction, but I’m not sure what I’m in the mood to grab. Five books, plus my Nook, isn’t too many books for one long weekend, right? What books are you excited to pick up over the last weekend of summer?

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